by Jenna Kutcher
Whew, we’re unwinding from a total whirlwind of a trip — 3 weeks abroad with a 9 month old and yes, it was as magical as it sounds. We spent time in Fiji, Australia, and New Zealand and today we’re recapping our Australia faves! A little backstory before I dive into the good stuff… it was a few weeks before our trip and I was hustling on the work front trying to get everything set before I left. I had a ton of work to wrap up so I could fully enjoy our vacation and that left little time to plan our travel. A few months ago, a company called Noken had reached out to see if we wanted to partner with them on a trip to show their services and the timing just wasn’t right (in reality, we couldn’t get a baby passport in time, so we passed!) but as luck would have it, I checked their website a few weeks before we flew out and saw they had just added Australia as a destination… ummmm, I’ll call that fate!
How Noken Works:
We were so fortunate to partner with Noken on our Australia trip and can not stop talking about them (we seriously raved to anyone who would listen!) and so before we dive into our faves, let me quick walk you through how Noken works and why it made our trip magical. This is how they describe their service: “Trips designed from hundreds of hours of research. Booked in moments and self-guided with an app.” Here’s how I’ll describe it: magic for a busy mama who doesn’t have time to research every hotel, restaurant, and activity but wants to create once-in-a-lifetime moments with her family. It was essentially like having a travel guide that takes care of everything in your pocket. (If I sound like an annoying raving fan, it’s because I totally and unabashedly am!)
01. Choose your country and dates: Right now, Noken offers trips in Australia, Iceland, France, Ireland, Italy, Japan, and Portugal (and they continue to expand!) Then based on your trip length, your itinerary will adjust. We already had our inbound and outgoing flights booked, so they adjusted our itinerary to match those destinations and then gave us a few different options.
02. Customize and book your trip in one transaction: This step was my favorite, we got a few different options for each city and we quickly were able to figure out details like where we wanted to stay, what activities were most important, and how leisurely or action-packed we wanted the trip to be! Select your favorite hotels, activities and in-country transport. Book a full trip in one seamless transaction — if you’ve ever planned a big trip, that last sentence is a HUGE win.
03. Explore carefree with your app: We were pretty obsessed with the app, it had everything we needed in one spot from confirmation numbers to restaurant suggestions, a day by day itinerary so we could see what was coming up and support! It was so amazing having the support to take out the guesswork and we had a team of support when things came up — like our boat tour got rained out! They rescheduled it and updated our app for us.
Maybe you’re wondering how much this service is going to cost you! This is the best part: it’s just $5/person/day… so having everything planned for us for 10 days cost us just $100 more total, that’s it. Talk about transparency and affordability. So let’s dive into where we stayed, our favorite food stops, and the top 3 activities we’d recommend if you’re going down under!
The hotels we stayed at (and loved!):
Let me just pre-face this and say that the hotels we stayed in were insanely incredible, like 5-star accommodations! I’m a gift who has been known to open a million tabs and get caught up in reading reviews when to comes to booking hotels, so it was amazing to have someone take care of this step. We loved everything and everyone and I have a thing with hotel robes and slippers, so they did not disappoint. The best part about the hotels was that Noken sent us a few options and we sent over our faves and they took care of booking, confirmations, and everything else so that all we had to do was pull up the app, check in, and enjoy!
01. The Old Clare Hotel in Sydney: This was our first stop in Australia and it was so cool! It’s a converted brewery and really boutique feeling with unique touches and finishes! Our room here was awesome because it was actually 2 stories (a living room on the first floor with the bed and bathroom on the second floor) and it worked awesome with baby and gave us a little space so we didn’t have to whisper in the dark with one another! The vibe was really cool here and the location was right in an area called “Spice Alley” that had awesome food, coffee, and little boutique shops.
02. Como in Melbourne: This was probably our most convenient stay in Oz! They upgraded our room (free of charge) to an apartment style room when they saw we had a baby and that was clutch! We had a full living room, a little kitchenette, and it had the perfect little dark nook for baby girls travel crib! This spot was in a great location, close to food and in walking distance to great shopping and sites! The staff was so accommodating and the design was super minimal and beautiful. Would definitely recommend this as a place to stay due to proximity and the spaciousness of our room.
03. Sofitel in Darling Habour in Sydney: This stay was our most memorable of the trip because of the insane 180 degree views — literally you could soak in the tub and watch the sunlight change on the city with views of the harbour — but it was also our most challenging with babes! She may or may not have had her crib set up in the shower (sometimes you’ve just gotta make things work!) but the room was stunning, the design was gorgeous, and the views were to-die-for! With this stay, we also had access to their Millsime level which offered snacks and drinks all day long and a free breakfast (with insane views too!)
Our favorite food stops:
We ate a lot of good food in Australia — mmm, so good — but our three favorite spots all happened to be in Sydney and were Noken recommendations. One of my favorite aspects about the app was that they offered recommendations for meals giving you 3-4 options near where you were staying (within walking distance or a short cab ride) and you could pick based on your mood or cravings! It took the guesswork out of reading online reviews or trying to stumble upon a gem when out and about. I honestly missed this feature immensley when we left Oz.
01. Mr. Wong: My mouth is watering as I write about this place! Not only is the vibe insane with multiple levels of dining and places to drink, but the food — ooooh, that fried rice — is to die for! We were actually on a walk around Sydney and checked in on the app and realized we were only a 20 minute walk from this spot so we found ourselves down a hidden alley where this spot is located and knew we would have never found it without the in-app navigation! It was delicious, hip, and such a cool spot! By the time we left to get Coco to bed, the place was so busy and hopping!
02. Firedoor: Noken actually made us a reservation here and we are so thankful they did! We walked to this location from our hotel and enjoyed seeing the city on our way! I was struggling to describe this with the right words, so a simple google search on the place totally helped me out: Firedoor had refined, seasonal cuisine cooked over wood coals in an open, heritage venue with rustic-chic decor. Yup, that describes it and it was such a fun stop for us, not to mention delicious!
03. Andiamo: This was one of our first stops in Sydney! It was actually right outside of The Old Clare Hotel and we wandered in when it was raining outside and we took cover. Well, chalk this up as one of our favorites because their risotto was divine and they had killer pumpkin gluten-free pizza — which I can never turn down! It was such a fun stop for us and Coco loved sampling their food! We loved that our hotel was right next door to some delicious food joints and for the record, I would have eaten here twice!
Our top 3 activities:
We enjoyed so much of our trip and some of our favorite moments were just simple ones dancing around the hotel rooms, watching Coco learn to stand and get around, and reading books to her in the bed. I mean, seriously, that was some of the best of the best but we also did a few booked activities that put the cherry on the top for our trip. These excursions were set up by Noken and so we just opened the app and had the details on where to be and when in order to enjoy!
01. Geelong Wine Tasting Day: This day was a winner for so many reasons! We kicked off the day with a train ride (Drew’s first ever!) to Geelong where our tour guide was waiting to pick us up! David, one of the owners, was our guide for the day and took us to three wineries and a distillery and then delivered us back to the train station to catch the train back home. He picked incredible wineries, scheduled a reservation for lunch (which was one of our favorite meals of the trip) and showed us a different side of Melbourne. The level of care (and flexibility with babe!) was so special and we sincerely loved our day with him… the wine wasn’t bad either! Drew loved brushing up on his wine skills from spending 5 years in that industry and I loved enjoying the beautiful views and tastes with our baby girl.
02.Darling Harbour Private Boat Cruise: Noken initially booked this at the front of our trip but it got rained out and so they quickly worked to reschedule our reservation (without any hassle on our end) and we were able to enjoy the most beautiful sunset at the end of our Australia trip! Our hotel was right on the harbour so we went down for a pier side pick up and Glen picked us up in the boat and off we went! We got to see so many Sydney views from the water, enjoyed champagne and a charcuterie board, and played our favorite tunes while cruising around in a beautiful boat. It was one of our most memorable nights and such a fun memory and the sights were absolutely breathtaking. We are so thankful we were able to reschedule! This is a must!
03. Breakfast with the Koalas: If you’re traveling with kids and want them to experience the amazing animals down under, this is an awesome opportunity! We headed to the zoo (which was within walking distance from our hotel) in the early morning and we were with a small group of visitors that got the grand tour before the zoo opened to the public! We had a guide sharing about the animals, many of which were abandoned and rescued or rehabilitated on their facilities and we got to learn more about their species in a small group setting! From different snakes to a croc and little wallabies, we got to see and experience them all! At the end of the tour, you get to have breakfast near the koalas and you can get your photos taken with them before heading out. It was such a fun way to see the animals and learn more about them — the best part was that it was extremely kid-friendly and you’re wrapped up and have the rest of the day to explore!
Sidenote: We asked Noken to give us an extra day in Melbourne to meet up with some of our dear friends and so we were able to use our free day to spend time with them at their farm and they took us to Gumbaya, an amazing nature reserve where we got up close and personal with kangaroos and my life was made.
Overall, Australia was:
Super special to us! Truth be told, I never imagined I’d actually get to Australia in my lifetime. It felt so, so far away and the travel part scared me… and that was pre-baby, what!? I am so glad dove in and more glad that Noken partnered with us to ensure that all of our dreams came true while we enjoyed the continent during our 10 day stay. From visiting Bondi beach to exploring around our hotels, we felt so taken care of. I honestly don’t want to travel without Noken from now on because they took the stress work and guesswork out of traveling abroad from airport transfers to finding the best activities, it was vacation simplified and the perfect mix of downtime and busy!
We also were able to customize our trip to block off a few special days to meet up with friends and spend time with them, so the fact that they were able to make all of our vacation requests come true and that we were able to have everything from flight numbers to hotel reservations all inside of an app on our phone? Priceless. We are already planning a return trip to Australia and we want to see and explore more now that we know the lay of the land a little better. Our time was so special and we hope these recommendations help as you plan our trip to the land of kangaroos and koalas!